The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
              (A Companion to MENDELE)
Contents of Vol. 08.005 [Sequential No. 144]
13 April 2004

                       Seventh Anniversary Issue

1)  About this issue of TMR  (ed.)
2)  _flabbergasted_ in Yiddish (ed.)
3)  Gershn Levin, "der farbisener" (ed.)

Lublin-born Gershn Levin was a Warsaw physician, journalist, writer, amateur
musician and communal activist who served in the Russian Army during the
Russo-Japanese and First World Wars.  His popular feuilletons and stories in
the Warsaw daily _Haynt_ gave ample evidence of his acute powers of
observation.  The story given here is not fiction; it is not a consciously
molded symbolic construct.  It is a realistic sequence of actions noted by
the writer while serving in the town of Mohilev in 1916 and described
simply.  This sequence has the force of an epiphany that eloquently paints
the great drama of immigration of our parents and grandparents.  The central
irony of the narrative is the _tshaynik_, the 'teapot' which in normal times
images domestic unity and comfort but is here an artifact of division.  It
is not an ordinary teapot; it cannot be left behind, but Grandfather can

4  Gershon Levin, "The Truculent One" (ed.)

Date:  13 April 2004
From: Leonard Prager 
Subject:  About this issue of TMR

_The Mendele Review_ made its first appearance on 13 April 1997.  Noyekh
Miller, who was then the _shames_ [moderator] of _Mendele_ and who
continues to oversee many of the activities of the Mendele domain (e.g.
the Onkelos Project), was the chief catalyst in the long gestation that
preceded the birth of this electronic journal.  Many others -- too many
to name here -- have also helped make the _TMR_ a familiar forum in the
fields of Yiddish language, literature and folklore.  From the outset
the _TMR_ has complemented the largely "notes and queries" character of
_Mendele_.  In the past year the _Yiddish Theatre Forum_ has come under
the Mendele umbrella to strengthen the neglected fields of theatre and
drama.  Many areas in the large terrain of Yiddish studies remain to be
explored.  Hopefully, _TMR_'s next seven years will, no less than the
first, be "gute zibn yor."

Date: 13 April 2004
From:Leonard Prager 
Subject: _flabbergasted_ in Yiddish

Someone named Josh wrote in Moron.Org of April 2
 "Fun fact of the day
-- _nepleft_, as in the root word used to describe my mood, is Yiddish for
'dumbfounded'.  I actually wanted to use "flabbergasted," but my dictionary
didn't have it."

Josh has confused the letters nun (=n) and giml (=g) -- which do often look
very much alike in print -- there is no "nepleft" in Yiddish, though there
is "gepleft/geplevt" (see Harkavi 1928, p. 155).  The preferred spelling is
_gepleft_.  Moreover, there are plenty of terms in Yiddish to express the
notion 'flabbergasted'.  In Stutshkov, under sense groups 543 and 253 we
find numerous suitable equivalences and synonyms.  My favorite in this sense
group is _pritshMELyet_, which was often used in my family, but _usTOPyet_
and _ _zatshMELyet_ will do nicely as well.  But it is not enough to know a
single isolated lexeme, one must know how to use it in a full sentence. Thus
one says, "Ikh bin geblibn gepleft" ('I was astounded') There are also many
idioms to expr ess various degrees of astonishment or surprize.  This is not
intended as a Yiddish lesson, and so one illustration will suffice here: "es
leygt zikh nisht afn seykhl" ('It doesn't make sense'.)  The literal meaning
of this phrase, of course, does not make sense:  'It does not lie down on
the mind'.

Date: 13 April 2004
From:Leonard Prager 
Subject: Gershn Levin, "der farbisener"

                         "der farbisener"(1)

                           fun Gershn Levin

ikh hob a mol in Mohilev badarft tsu der ban.

s'hot gegosn a shlaks regn, keyn droshke iz nit geven, tsayt hob ikh gehat
genug, bin ikh arayn in di [sic -- LP] azoy gerufene "konke." (2)

pasazhirn iz, on anehore, geven zeyer a sakh, in vagon iz geven heys, vi in
a bod. s'iz mir take tsu nuts gekomen, vayl ikh bin geven a bisl farkilt un
ikh hob badarft im lebn shvitsn.

a kegn iber mir iz gezesn an altitshker yid, vos hot zikh mit gornit
opgezundert fun toyznt andere altitshke yidn, an ayngeboygener rukn, an
umetik farshrumpn ponem mit a sakh kneytshn, farloshene kimat toyte oygn un
a grayz-groy berdl.

der altitshker iz gezesn farklert, hot fartrakhterheyt gekukt far zikh un
hot nisht aroysgeret keyn eyntsik vort.

ikh volt mikh oyf im efsher gornisht umgekukt, ober mayn oyfmerkzamkeyt hot
tsugetsoygn der tshaynik, vos er hot gehaltn inem shoys, arumnemendik im mit
beyde hent azoy ernst, vi a sandak halt dos kind tsum bris.

der tshaynik iz nisht geven keyn aynfakher, a meshiner ober a blekhener, nor
fun nikl, mit a hentl fun helen portselan, a sheyner aristokratisher
tshaynik, vos hot nisht harmonizirt mit di oreme oysgeribene malbushim fun
dem altn yid.

nebn dem altitshken iz gezesn a yunger man mit a shpitsik berdl, mit a por
shpitsike oygn un afile mit shpitsike kaloshn. azelkhe shpitsike mentshn
zenen beteve zeyer naygerik, un men hot take derkent, as der niklner
tshaynik mitn portselanem hentl lozt im nisht ruik aynzitsn.

endlekh hot der shpitsiker yungerman nisht gekont, vayzt-oys, lenger
oyshaltn un er hot dem altitshken a freg geton, vuhin fort er mitn tshaynik.
der altitshker hot zikh keyn rir nisht geton fun ort un nisht kukndik afile
oyfn yungn man hot er gelasn ongehoybn tsu dertseylen, az di tokhter zayne
mitn eynikl foren tsurik avek keyn amerike tsi ir man. in aylenish hot zi
fargesn dem tshaynik un er fort tsu der ban ir im optsugebn.

-- atsund, beshas der milkhome keyn amerike?  -- hot der yunger man gefregt
farvundert un iz gevorn nokh shpitsiker.

--s'hot genug gekost -- hot kaltblutik geentfert der alter un iz vayter
geblibn zitsn, vi farshteynert. nokh a kleyne vayle hot er tsugegebn, glaykh
er volt geret tsu zikh aleyn:  -- eltern voltn in aza tsayt zeyere kinder
nisht gelozt aleyn, ober kinder farlozn zeyere alte tate-mame un foren keyn

er hot afile keyn zifts nisht gegebn.

-- vi fil kost der tshaynik?  -- iz der yunger man geven naygerik tsu visn.

-- ver veyst im dort -- hot der altitshker beyz geentfert.

-- tsi iz dos a rusisher tshaynik, oder an amerikanisher?

der altitshker hot oyf der frage shoyn gornisht geentfert un iz vayter
gezesn fartrakht.

beshas mir hobn bay der ban ongehoybn aroystsugeyn funem vagon, hob ikh
bamerkt bay der stantsye a bayorte yidene mit a shal oyfn kop. zi hot zikh
mit groys oyfmerkzamkeyt tsugekukt tsu yedn pasazhir, vos iz aropgegangen
fun der "konke." un vi zi hot derzen dem altitshken mitn tshaynik, hot zi
ongehoybn tsu makhn mit di hent tsum andern vagon, vos badarf avekgeyn fun
der ban tsurik in shtot arayn.

-- bertsye, bertsye!  -- hot zi geshrien -- kum arop, der zeyde hot shoyn
aleyn gebrakht dem tshaynik.

funem vagon iz aropgeshprungen a yingele fun a yor elf-tsvelf mit royte
bekelekh un mit a por lebedike eygelekh. er iz geven ongeton gants
balebatish mit a hart kapelishl oyfn kop. er hot a khap geton funem zeydn
dem tshaynik un nisht zogndik keyn eyntsik vort iz er mit der yidene
arayngelofn inem banhoyf.

der altitshker hot zi a vayle nokhgekukt un hot gemakht dem ayndruk fun a
mentsh, vos kemft mit epes a gedank. er hot endlekh gemakht etlekhe shrit in
der rikhtung tsum banhoyf, ober plutsling hot er zikh umgekert un iz shnel
arayn in di [sic-lp] "konke," vos geyt tsurik in shtot arayn. -------

(1) Gershn Levin, _In velt-krig_, Varshe:  Yehudia, 1923, pp. 30-32 [=
peyrek 3].

(2) _konke_ e.g. < Ukrainian  _konka_ 'horse-drawn omnibus' [feminine in
both Ukrainian and Yiddish]; also < Russian and other Slavic languages.
Levin describes the Mohilev omnibus with tongue in cheek on pages 18-20.  He
writes: "The Mohilev Omnibus, it seems to me, does not have its equal in all
Europe."  ( p. 20)

Date: 13 April 2004
From:Leonard Prager 
Subject: Gershon Levin, "The Truculent One"

Gershon Levin, "The Truculent One" (Translated by Leonard Prager)

Once I had to get to the Mohilev train station.

It was pouring down rain, no droshkies were in sight, and since I had plenty
of time, I got on the so-called "Konke" -- a horsedrawn omnibus.

It was full of passengers and hot as a bathhouse inside, but this was useful
for I had a bit of a cold and badly needed to sweat.

Opposite me sat an old man who looked like most old men, a bent back, a
heavily creased forlorn-looking shrunken visage, half-closed dead eyes and a
little gray beard.

The old man sat deep in thought, looking straight ahead of him and not
uttering a single word.

Perhaps I would not even have noticed him had it not been for the teapot
that he held in his lap, clasping it with both his hands as a godfather
might hold an infant boy at the circumcision rite.

The teapot was no ordinary tin or copper teapot. It was made of nickel and
had a bright porcelin handle. This attractive upperclass teapot clashed with
the old man's worn and shabby poor man's dress.

Near the old man sat a young man with a pointed beard, sharp eyes and
pointy-toed overshoes. Sharp-eyed people like him tend to be very curious
and one could see that the nickle teapot with the porcelin handle gave him
no rest.

Finally, the sharp-eyed young man could not restrain himself any longer and
had to ask the old man where he was going with the teapot. The old man , not
budging from his seat and without even looking at the young man, slowly
began to explain that his daughter together with his grandson were sailing
to America to rejoin her husband. In the rush of departure she had forgotten
the teapot and he was going to the railroad station to return it to her.

-- Now, in wartime, to America, asked the young man with wonderment,
becoming even more curious.

-- It cost plenty, coldbloodedly replied the old man and continued frozen in
his place. After a little while, as though talking to himself, he added,
"Parents in a time like this would not leave their children alone, but
children leave their old father and mother and go off to America."

He did not even sigh.

-- How much did the teapot cost?, the young man needed to know.

Who knows, answered the old man angrily.

-- Is it a Russian or an American teapot?

The old man didn't bother to answer the question and continued to sit deep
in thought.

When the omnibus arrived at the station and the passengers began to get off,
I noticed an elderly woman with a shawl on her head.  She was examining
every one of us omnibus passengers with the greatest attention.  And as soon
as she saw the old man with the teapot, she began to signal in the direction
of a second omnibus that was about to leave the station for the town.

--Bertsye, Bertsye, she called. Get off the omnibus, grandpa himself has
already brought the teapot.

A young red-cheeked and lively-eyed boy of eleven or twelve jumped down from
the omnibus. He was very respectably dressed and wore a man's hat on his
head. He grabbed the teapot from his grandfather and without saying a single
word ran into the station with the old woman.

The old man looked after her for a short time, giving the impression of a
person who is struggling with an idea.  Finally, he took several steps in
the direction of the station, but then suddenly turned around and mounted
the omnibus heading back to town.

(C) Copyright by Leonard Prager 13.4.04
End of The Mendele Review Vol. 08.005
Editor, Leonard Prager
Associate Editor, Joseph Sherman

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